Co Quotes & Co Occurrences for SEO: a complete guide

What are Co-Citations and how to use them in SEO

In recent months we talk about co-citations as an important present and future factor of organic positioning SEO. Let's try to deepen the topic starting from an important distinction, the one between co-citations and co-occurrences (co-citation and co-occurence).

In this guide to co quotes and co occurrences we aim to cover the topic in depth in 7 parts:

  • Co-citations: definition and practical applications in the link building
  • Co-occurrences: definition and practical applications in link building
  • How to link without a link: the correct use of the mention
  • Test against co-occurrences
  • Test for co-occurrences
  • Where to enter co-occurrences
  • Tools for monitoring co-occurrences

What are co quotes?

The term co quotes designates the phenomenon whereby:

  • if site A links to site B
  • and site A also links to site C
  • then sites B and C will be semantically related in the eyes of Google, as they are united by the co-citation by site A.

One image, from the Search Engine Journal article on co-citation, exemplifies the concept more than a thousand words:

co seo quotes

The connection between A and B and between A and C does not necessarily occur with a link, in the form <a href="">but it can also occur on the basis of a mention, which leads Google to infer the similarity between the two mentioned pages.

In the co-citations the transitive property is at work, so a site could help another one even if they have never been in direct contact, as long as the two sites (B and C) have in common a third site (A) that links them both: at this point the link juice can be passed back and forth.

Clearly this can work in a positive or negative way.

Let's look at a negative practical application:




Let's assume there are three links on a page, two to blue pill themed sites and one to eyewear themed sites. What could Google think? That the site that talks about sunglasses is semantically related to the blue pill sites.

Basically the principle behind the co quotations takes up old adage SEO "I'll take care of the sites I link to, and God will take care of the sites they link to" ;-D

Instead, let us see a positive practical application of the co-citation.

Practical applications of co-citation

So let's look at the practical applications of co-citation in everyday link building practice.

Let's assume that A is the site where I'm going to insert a link to B, which is the site to be placed. At this point, to take full advantage of the potential of the operation of co-citations, from site A I will link, as well as B, also a site C, with the following characteristics:

  • must be a site related to the topic
  • must be a site in Trust, whose importance is recognized by Google

In this way Google will semantically correlate two sites as they are linked or mentioned from the same page.

Linking to another site in Trust and related, in addition to the site to be placed, is not a new practice in SEO. In order to avoid that the presence of two links in the same article makes the weight of the link related to the site to be placed decrease, it will be enough:

  • extend the length of the article
  • insert the link to the site in trust underneath the link to the site to be placed

What are Co-Occurrences and how to use them in SEO

In the previous passage, dedicated to co-citations, we stressed the importance of belonging to a cluster of semantically related sites and how to get Google to place the site to be ranked in this semantic set.

Let's continue the discussion here with co-occurrences.

What are Co Occurrences?

If co-citations respect the transitive rule, co-occurrences respect a principle already known in SEO, that of SEO proximity, the proximity of keywords.

Let's take an image from the article about co-citation in Search Engine Journal, which exemplifies the concept:

co occurrences seo

Co-occurrences are defined as the semantic occurrences of one term together with another.

If we write, for example:

in the website we talk about seo

Google will associate the occurrence of terms contained in the phrase such as "seo" with the brand "": if this phrase then appears in a site that talks about SEO, the circle is complete.

Even in the absence of links, let alone links with anchor text "seo", Google will attribute to the site the connection with the word seo, in a manner almost similar to what would happen if "seo" was the anchor text of the url

It immediately jumps out at you that the co quotations would make the link superfluous in the form <a href="">marking an epochal turning point in the link building (which should also change its name to citation building ;-D).

Similarities and differences between co-citations and cooccurrences

Okay, let's be specious. In general, it can be said that while the co-citation associates two sites linked by the same link, the co-occurrence associates particular keywords to a brand due to their reciprocal proximity.

with citations with occurrences analogies differences

Practical applications of cooccurrence

At this point let's figure out how to practically apply co-occurrence to our Link building strategy.

The strengths of the co occurrence are:

  • does not require a link, but just a mention, that is a "citation" of the keyword near the unique brand of the site to be placed;
  • allows us to use "natural" anchor text, without an exact keyword;
  • allows us to take advantage of the weight that Google gives to three factors: relevance of the text in which the link appears, authority of the site where the text appears, proximity around the link of keywords.

Let's see how to practically exploit these advantages with three possible uses of the cooccurrence.

Mode 1

If you're looking for trips to Africa, click here.

In this example we have used as anchor text "click here", a form of "junk" anchor text that allows us to use an anchor text perceived as natural by Google and at the same time give it thematicity thanks to the presence of the keyword "travel in Africa" located next to it.

Mode 2

If you are looking for trips to Africa, go to

In this example we have used as anchor text the url of the site, which allows us to use an anchor text perceived as natural by Google and at the same time give it thematicity thanks to the presence of the keyword "travel in Africa" located next to it.

Mode 3

If you are looking for trips to Africa, go to the website of the travel agency Africa Mia

In this example, there is no link, but a simple textual mention of the Brand of the site (Africa Mia), with the keyword "travel in Africa" in close proximity. Below we'll see how to properly use the mention instead of the link, or how to link without a link.

How and where to create co-occurrences: 7 tips

We've seen what co-occurrences and co-citations are, the tests for and against them, and how to use mention properly.

Now we turn our attention to how to create co-occurrences (often called co quotes in Italy).

The bottom line is, if I can put up a link, maybe follow, why give it up for a mention? I don't see the point. As much as the weight of co-occurrences or co-citations is growing, I think that there will be a lot of water under the bridge to come to prefer a mention to a link.

But...there is a catch. There are cases in which, alas, the link is not possible to put it. Either for technical reasons (lack of possibility to insert links) or for risk of ban, censorship, in the case of forums.

So if we find a nice site in the scope of the site to be placed and maybe even in trust, why not use a mention?

So let's see where and how to create mentions.

How to enter co quotations (co occurrences)

From the analysis of SERP relative to sites that are likely to have ranked (also) due to the weight of co-occurrences, are some effective practices to link brand and keyword in the eyes of Google even without links:


Insert co-occurrences in thematic sites: contextuality, one of the fundamental criteria of link building, also applies here: if a technology site reviews a technological product without including the link to the product site itself, why shouldn't Google consider it a "vote", like a link (albeit with less value)?


Let's take the example of the technology site seen in a previous article: if it is an important site, as well as relevant, the co-occurrence of the brand and the keyword will take on even more weight: think of the case history of, cited, even without links, by sites like Forbes, The Boston Guardian...

Co occurrence in title tag and content

If our tech site reviews a product as "the best blender of the year", where will it put the product name (brand) and keyword (blender)? Plausibly at least in the title tag and in the content of the review, places where the co-occurrences of brand + keyword typically appear in the cases seen.

After seeing how to insert co quotes or co occurrences, let's go over where to insert them.

Where to insert co citations (co occurrences)

Comments on blog

More and more comments on blogs or newspapers use Facebook Comments. Result: no possibility to put links, not even no follow. So why not insert a mention of the brand accompanied by the keyword? Here are 2 tips on the subject:

  • choose articles in context with the topic of your site
  • insert the unique name of the brand with the keyword to be positioned next to it

Web Directories

When we report a site in a web directory, we can include in the description field of the directory the site name or url (even if not clickable) placing very close to the keywords to be placed.

Threads in forums

In the forums there are 3 main places to put links. But above all, the level of anti-spammer vigilance in the forums is rightly increasing. First with no follow, then with link censorship, banning, or inhibiting the ability to post links.

Ergo...why not quote? Especially in the body of the thread, more "sensitive" area.

Here are 2+1 tips on the subject:

  • choose forums that are contextual to the topic of your site
  • insert the unique name of the brand with the keyword to be positioned next to it
  • don't spam 🙂

Social network

Facebook and Twitter: places of perdition, where the no follow rages ... so why not try the co occurrence or co quote? Maybe in a page, indexed by Google, or in a Tweet. The advice is similar to the previous cases:

  • choose Facebook page and Tweets that are contextual to the topic of your site
  • insert the unique name of the brand with the keyword to be positioned next to it


The citation in the body of the article could not be missed. In which cases do you prefer a citation to a link? For example with initiatives of link baiting, trying to write content that is linked and cited.

Is anchor text and link building dead?

I admit, it's a bold title, the subtitle of which could be: but are co-occurrences really a positioning factor or just a flash in the pan??

Let's continue the discourse on co-occurrences by going to understand if beyond the rumors and theories there are tests that endorse the importance of co-occurrences as a ranking factor.

Let's start right away by saying that among the Italian SEO community I haven't found complete tests except for small admissions. Having said that, if we fly overseas, many tests have been done, starting from Moz, that in a very famous article attributes as the cause of the ranking of some sites in specific SERPs the co-occurrences, in the absence of the typical ranking factors (such as the keyword in the title tag).

Before considering in detail the tests proving the value of co-occurrences in positioning, we start alas with a premise: we must be careful not to confuse cause with effect: co-occurrences may be valid as a ranking factor, but let's be careful of false alarms, i.e. cases where we start with an assumption and do not look for the most obvious solution to explain a phenomenon, as we see below.

Co occurrences, the Moz case

Take the cases reported by SEOMoz: as extensively documented by Seo By The Sea and Iacquire, the anomalous positioning of the sites reported by Moz is due, more than to the weight of the co-occurrences, to more typical factors, as among others:

  • the presence in the anchor text of incoming links of keywords in partial match: that is, if a site cited by Moz ranks for "manufacters directory" without having the key in the title and other keywords, it may not be because of the value of co-occurrences (or not primarily) but because the site is linked with keywords such as "manufacters" or "directory";
  • the attribution by Google of synonyms: maybe the site mentioned by Moz is not linked with keywords like "manufacters directory" but it is linked with keywords like "business directory". At this point it could be assumed, as well explained by Seo by the Sea, that Google attributes a relationship of synonymy between "Manufacters" and "Business", making them interchangeable.

If the three case histories reported by Moz have been extensively covered by Seo by the Sea and Iacquire, let's consider two other cases that remain unsolved: the and cases.

These two cases would seem to break a lance in favor of co-occurrences as a ranking factor.

The and Cases

The case reported by Brad Knutson relative to the site starts with similar premises and Moz's cases: absence of the keyword in the main On Page points and negligible presence of the key, in exact match and partial match form, among the anchor texts of the incoming links.

OK, the links seem to be excluded from the defendants. But there's a lack of hard evidence of the culprit: let's go look for it, in a spotty way, with a simple Google command:

co occurrences milgard

Indeed, there seem to be some occurrences of the terms windows, manufacters and Milgard together in numerous sites, of which, however, I could not define the level of correlation or trust.

The case reported by Miles Design is instead immediately apparent to the presence of sites in trust that cite, mention, the brand of the site without linking to it:

co occurrences kickstarter

In fact from SERP reported it would appear that many sites associate, in points such as title tag and content, the Kickstarter brand with the keyword Crowd Funding and among these sites there are presumably some in TRUST such as the sites of well-known newspapers or sites related to the topic (visible on the second page of the SERP).

If we then go into some of these sites, like Forbes, The Boston Guardian...we notice:

  • in some cases the absence of any link to the brand's website;
  • in other cases the presence of a link with brand name.

Little to tie cause (co occurrences) with effect (placement)? Perhaps. But the cases remain suggestive and in my opinion confirm if nothing else the presence at the scene of the co occurrences. Presence does not imply guilt, but the case is not closed.

4 best practices for using co-occurrences

How valuable are co-occurrences as a ranking factor? It is not known for sure at the moment. However, from the previous cases we can list some best practices in the use of co-occurrences:

  • make sure you put the co-occurrences in trust sites
  • make sure you enter co-occurrences in sites in the same domain as yours
  • make sure to include brand and keywords in title tags, heading tags, content
  • in the content, put keywords and brands in proximity, that is, close to each other

Ideal example:

  • for my travel agency in Africa, I choose to insert the co occurrence in a site related to Africa, travel or a site in Trust (e.g. Corriere della Sera).
  • Having chosen the site, I write a content related to the theme, inserting in the title tag, in the heading tags and in the content keyword + brand.

How to link without a link: the correct use of the mention

The important aspect to take into account is that Google uniquely recognizes the brand entered, associating it with the url of the site even if the link is not present.

Let me explain. If in way 3 of using co occurrence the sentence had been:

If you are looking for trips to Africa, go to the website of the travel agency Amazon

Probably Google would have associated the keyword to the Amazon brand and its site, instead of to our travel agency.

Before using the mention, you should understand the way you uniquely associate your brand. That's all it takes:

  • Google the name of the brand and see what comes up: the first result should be the website of our brand
  • find other ways in which Google associates a term with our brand through Google Suggest Tool
  • find other ways in which Google associates a term with our brand through related searches

At this point we understand that mentioning a brand with a keyword next to it allows us to replace the anchor text with the proximity of the keyword to the mentioned brand, that is:

instead of linking like this:

If you are looking for trips to Africa, go to the website of the travel agency Africa Mia

"Link" like this:

If you are looking for trips to Africa, go to the website of the travel agency Africa Mia

The use of the mention instead of the link can be useful in cases where

  • we can't put a link
  • in the case of co-occurrences


At a time when the main occupation of SEOs and link builders seems to be taking down previously placed links, co citations and co occurrences can be ways to build online popularity without the use of links and therefore without penalties for link spam schemes.

Do you use co citations and co occurrences? Do you have any case histories to discuss? Let's discuss them in the comments. If you found it helpful, share this guide on social!

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